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Artist turns his hospital room into a gallery

While recovering from an episode of cystic fibrosis at Keck Medical Center of USC, artist Dominic Quagliozzi channeled his experience into paintings.

Dominic Quagliozzi was looking for a unique place to display his artwork. He found it in his hospital room at Keck Medical Center of USC.

Unusual, yes, but certainly appropriate. Quagliozzi made the art while recovering from an acute exacerbation episode of his cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic condition that lands him in the hospital two or three times a year.

Quagliozzi channeled his illness through his art, giving viewers a chance to see what cystic fibrosis looks like — at least through the eyes of a trained artist.

In all, he made 20 paintings that reflected the pain and loneliness he felt during his 11-day hospital stay. An additional image was projected on a bathroom wall.

The subject matter ranged from his interpretation of the hives he developed during an allergic reaction to abstract drawings of faces that represented the hospital staff.

“When the doctors come into the room, they wear gowns and facemasks to protect me,” said the 30-year-old Burbank resident, who has a degree in fine art. “I made abstract paintings of that sensation of having all these people come in and observe me and take care of me, but I never see their faces.”

Others showed what Quagliozzi called “base human functions,” paintings of him relieving himself, for example.

“My work is basically all centered around the body, health, fitness and how society reacts to that,” he said.

The rest of the 11-by-15-inch pieces represented how he dealt with his situation.

“There are emotions about being alone in the hospital — isolation, alienation, separation anxiety,” he said. “These things that come up when you’re in the hospital for an extended period alone.”

With local artists expanding the idea of what a gallery can be, Quagliozzi had the idea of showing his paintings right there in his room.

“The CF team heard about it,” he said. “They contacted the hospital administration. They were really supportive of having the show.”

In fact, the hospital catered the event with cookies and drinks in April.

“Being in a hospital for two weeks can be really hard,” he said. “It really meant a lot to me. Having drinks and cookies really made the guests appreciate what was going on.”

Debbie Benitez, nurse coordinator for the CF program at Keck Hospital of USC, said the hospital encourages patients to find fulfilling activities during their stay.

“We want to support our patients and their dreams,” she said. “It was really amazing. You were just looking through the eyes of a CF patient.”

When guests arrived, they had to navigate around Quagliozzi’s bed and his IV pole. He didn’t want them to forget where they were.

“I was interested in the dynamic of people coming to a hospital room to observe not only a patient but the periphery,” he said.

Quagliozzi hopes his art teaches others that having an illness isn’t something to hide.

“Sometimes I have a group show and I’ll just project one of my X-rays,” he said. “It’s a prompt to make it OK for people to feel comfortable enough to share their personal health stories.”

To see more of Quagliozzi’s artwork, visit artistdominic.com

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